Welcome to the sixth installment of the Scripture Study in Joshua. Last week we covered the first eight verses in this chapter, which brought up far more to discuss than originally anticipated and thus necessitating a split of this chapter into two parts. If you are just joining me, or have missed a week or two, there is a link below to the beginning of the study, to the last study, and a link to a master page where you can find links to each active part of the study.
9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
Verses 9-10: Joshua draws the crowd in and makes sure they are ready to listen, not to what Joshua has to say but rather what God is saying to them. He is only a vessel to pass along the message, showing the same humility that Daniel demonstrates while in the court of Nebuchadnezzar (See Daniel 2:27-30) and many others do over the course of the Bible. Joshua could have gotten a strong response from his followers by commanding them without mentioning the words were from God, yet he knew to whom the glory should go for what was about to happen. Far too often we are tempted into the thoughts of our culture that encourage us to pursue our dreams, our desires, and get into the mindset that we deserve those things and that they will make us happy and we deserve happiness. Yet even if we believe we know what will make us happy in this life, how much more does our Father know what would make us happy (See Matthew 7:11)? We should pray about the pursuits we aim to achieve and invite God to take part in the decision-making process. After all, how much can we accomplish if it runs contrary to His will for us? We should dream big dreams and chase after lofty goals, ones that are so big in scope that they could only happen if God showed up and helped along the way. Those are the goals which will assuredly bring Him greater glory, because we will know it was not by our own power that we reached that mark.
Verses 11-13: Note the emphasis placed here on the transportation of the Ark. It is no ordinary container being transported along on this journey, but rather it contains God’s ten commandments (See Exodus 25:16, 21; 40:20) and served as a holy representation of God and His presence for the people of Israel. So it is significant that not only the Ark is leading the Israelites, but also the command to have a member from each tribe present is important. These twelve men will be active witnesses to the miracle about to unfold, and the inclusion of all twelve tribes demonstrates they all hold favor with God. The significance of the twelve tribes will be explored in greater depth in the next chapter. Sometimes God calls us not to be active participants in a significant event, but rather to stand as witnesses who can then go and spread the word through testimony. We should not only spread this testimony during the moments following the event, but across generations. We should tell them to our kids and grandkids, to those we know and even to those we hardly know. We certainly should rejoice in the times when God chooses to use us to further His Glory, but we can equally rejoice when we see Him moving through others.
Verses 14-17: What an impressive feat this proved to be. The banks of the river, we are told, were at flood-level stages so it was a very full body of water raging here. God could have chosen any number of methods of providing crossing for the Israelites, such as freezing the water solid to allow them to cross. Yet instead of doing the natural, God comes along and does the Supernatural and parts the water. Whereas the Red Sea parting involved forming a wall of water on either side of the Israelites, in this instance God stopped the flowing side of the river and, ultimately, the other half would dry up without more water flowing across. There is no chance that this could be written off as something that happened naturally, and this will not be the last time in Joshua when we see God demonstrate His awesome power in ways that are unexpected. Imagine the people crossing, looking to their right and seeing a wall of water stretching upward on their right and bare ground to their left for as far as the eye can see. This just goes to reinforce that God likes to show up and do things in ways we don’t expect. Sometimes we expect answers to our prayers to not only arrive immediately, but exactly how we imagine them to be resolved. Yet that is rarely God’s timing or His method of answering prayers. Our imagination is limited to what we believe is possible, as well as what works best for us in that moment. God works based upon what is best for us in the long term and performs in ways that ensure the glory and credit can be placed nowhere but upon His shoulders. We should pray bigger, and bolder, prayers and step out in faith like those carrying the Ark. They took steps into the river before the waters were stopped. It was also they who stood in the middle of the river, under the shadow of this raging wall of water while waiting for all of the men, women, and children to cross to the other side. As far as they knew, the water would commence in its natural course at any moment. Yet they stood there, firmly trusting that God would fulfill His end of the deed without demanding any proof. And not only did God show up, He did so in a way that surpassed their understanding and expectations.